Our mission is to provide patient-centered care for allergies and asthma.

Do I Have Exercise-Induced Asthma or Am I Just Out of Shape?

Have you felt shortness of breath or experienced wheezing and coughing during or after exercise? While you may have worried you were just out of shape, you may in fact have a condition known as exercise-induced asthma. Also called exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (brong-koh-kun-STRIK-shun), this form of asthma is caused by strenuous exercise and occurs due to a narrowing of the airways in the lungs.

While a lack of personal fitness and exercise-induced asthma exhibit similar symptoms, asthma is often triggered by allergens or weather and temperature changes. To determine if your symptoms are actually the result of asthma, your doctor may perform a lung function test, which typically reveals asthma. Other tests that they may conduct include specialized pulmonary function testing, electrocardiography, echocardiography, allergy testing, or vocal cord tests.

If you have exercise-induced asthma, you should be able to continue working out by treating any resulting asthma symptoms and taking some precautionary measures. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 339 million people around the world have some form of asthma.

Symptoms and Risk Factors

The symptoms associated with exercise-induced asthma can happen during exercise, as well as soon after your workout is finished. Without treatment, these symptoms can last up to an hour or longer.

Symptoms include:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Experiencing tightness or pain in the chest
  • Feeling tired during exercise
  • Showing poorer than expected athletic performance

In children, another symptom may be avoiding activity altogether. If your child actively struggles with exercise or simply enjoying the playground, you may want to consider speaking with your doctor about an exercise-induced asthma test.

Scientists still aren’t entirely sure what causes exercise-induced asthma, but they do know that it is more likely to occur in people who already have asthma. According to the Mayo Clinic, about 90% of those with asthma also have exercise-induced asthma. Very high level athletes also more commonly have this form of asthma.

Certain factors can also increase the odds of developing this condition. For example, cold or dry air may contribute to exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, as may air pollution. Other risk factors include chlorine in swimming pools and chemicals from ice cleaning equipment. Finally, activities that require extended periods of deep breathing can also cause this form of asthma. Examples include soccer, swimming and running long distances.

Preventing Exercise-Induced Asthma

Living with any form of asthma shouldn’t stop you from exercising. For those with asthma, the first step is to maintain good control of your asthma. Closely managing your asthma can be very helpful in controlling any exercise-induced asthma flareups.

For someone who normally doesn’t have asthma, many doctors will recommend medication, particularly albuterol. This is a short-acting beta-2 agonist that works to prevent the contraction of the airways, and, as a result, it helps to control any asthma symptoms caused from exercising.

Other treatments that your doctors may ask you to try before exercising to prevent an asthma attack include asthma inhalers, bronchodilators or inhaled ipratropium. If you are prescribed an inhaler, you should carry it with you at all times, including when you exercise.

To help lessen asthma symptoms, it can also be helpful to do a warmup before a workout and a cool down after exercising. If you already know that you have issues with allergies or asthma, it is best to skip exercising on days with a high pollen count or when there are extreme temperatures. Both very cold and very hot days can worsen exercise-induced asthma. Exercising indoors is still an option, as is wearing a mask or scarf over your nose and mouth in cold weather.

Finally, certain infections, such as colds, the flu, or sinusitis, may increase asthma symptoms. If you have a cold or flu and have had previous issues with exercise-induced asthma, it is probably best to skip working out until you are fully recovered from the infection.

Activities to Consider

While maintaining a regular workout routine is possible with exercise-induced asthma, certain activities may be more conducive to managing your condition than others. Activities to consider include baseball, gymnastics, hiking, volleyball, walking, and wrestling. The reason these forms of exercise are typically better for someone with exercise-induced asthma is that they involve short, intermittent periods of exertion, instead of longer periods of exertion that are found in activities such as cross-country skiing, basketball, ice hockey, or running.

However, it is possible for someone with exercise-induced asthma to participate in more strenuous activities with the proper preparation, care and recognition of when they need to stop.

Treating Exercise-Induced Asthma

If you encounter someone experiencing exercise-induced asthma, first determine if they need emergency assistance. If they appear to be struggling to breathe, have blue-colored lips or can’t walk or talk, call 911 immediately.

If you are experiencing exercise-induced asthma yourself while working out, stop the activity immediately. If you have an asthma action plan from your doctor, follow each step. This may mean using an inhaler or whatever medication you use to treat your asthma followed by a period of rest. Do not resume any activity until you can breathe easily. If the symptoms return, stop exercising for the day and follow up with your health care provider.

Without treatment, exercise-induced asthma can result in serious health issues over time, including reducing your ability to exercise. The inflammation that occurs in your lungs combined with bronchoconstriction can increase the production of mucus in the airways. The buildup of mucus can lead to an elevated risk of developing certain infections. In turn, numerous infections result in scarring of the lungs, which is irreversible and can cause permanent lung damage.

Worried that you may have developed exercise-induced asthma? Columbia Allergy can help you determine the cause of your issue and decide on the best treatment options for your condition. We pride ourselves on offering a patient-focused approach, so we’ll work with you to meet your needs and goals. With convenient locations in California, Oregon, Idaho, and Washington, Columbia Allergy is here to help.

This is not medical advice. We encourage you to seek assessment and treatment from a trained medical professional to learn more about your unique needs.

Do You Suffer From Allergies?

Don’t let allergies run your life. Talk to a Columbia Allergy clinic today to find relief.

Monica H.
“First time at allergy specialist they really care about my kids lifestyle they care more about their patients that their wallet. Now days that's a keeper. ”
David W.
“Adam and the staff were great at considering my concerns, explaining my results and listening to my questions. Plus everyone was on time and things moved swiftly. ”
Prashant S.
“Absolutely exceptional. The doctor, team and facilities are the best you could ask for. We have never felt more comfortable and safe. With the approach we have taken with our son and has made the whole process so much easier. You guys makes difference in people’s lives”
Noah J.
“Nothing worse than worrying about every cookie and ice cream snack out there that sends us to the ER. Dr.Jain and Dr. Gandhe who are the best. Their expertise and kindness have given us back both dessert and peace of mind. I don't know which one is more appreciated. ”
Hana L.
"Dr.Gandhe always puts my son at ease before treatment. She talks to him directly and in an age appropriate way. My son looks forward to visiting her and the other staff. When I have questions about treatment she responds clearly and, during after hours, Dr. Gandhe responds very quickly. We feel well cared for."
Amy M.
"Dr. Gandhe gives us excellent personalized treatment for my son’s peanut and tree nut allergy. She has a heart for kids with allergies and I feel very safe under her care. My son has already made great progress with his tree nut allergy"
Nikko Y.
"Best Office Ever!"
Georgia B.
"One of the best doctors + staff I have ever met. The care and professionalism is out of this world! We feel comforted and safe at our visit "
Pierre
"Dr. Jain is very kind and friendly as well as the staff "
Graciela R.
"Dr.Jain and Melissa Hutton PA-C are the best allergy providers I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. The entire staff is kind and helpful. My allergy care is comprehensive and I never feel rushed through an appointment-"
Miko
"Best decision we have made in my son’s life so far"
Merritt F.
"We are very confident with Dr. Jain’s treatment plans and recommendations. The staff at the Fremont office is amazing"
Cherylyn V.
"Amazing and awesome team for scary and life-threatening allergies"
Manalie J.
"Dr.Gandhe is very patient, explains everything in great detail and answered all of our questions. It helped to ease out our Anxiety about OIT"
Walter M.
"Dr. Gandhe is great, thoughtful, and a caring provider. All staff is fantastic as well!"
Sarah S.
"We are likely (5 stars) to recommend Dr. Jain to friends and family. Our experience here has been so positive and supportive. It is great clinic and has given us great hopes in treating our son"
Khushi P.
"Extremely great experience. Truly God sent figures. Dr. Jain and Melissa are such wonderful and humble doctors, I have ever met. Thank You. Dr Jain and the entire staff for being with us through the journey. I will recommend him to all the people that I know with allergies
Amrita M.
"Dr. Gandhe has been more than a blessing for us. We love her! She’s so great at talking explaining and planning everything. Her treatment has been spot on and I am so thankful we found you. We love all the nurses, they are so patient and loving"
Translate »